On Saturday I took part in the Women's March here in Washington DC. I've since seen posts on Facebook questioning the point of it and asserting that women here don't need a march because the writer feels she has all of the freedoms she needs and it's women in other countries who are oppressed. I've tried to stop engaging in political arguments on Facebook because it's generally pointless, but it did get my writer's brain working on a list of reasons why I do believe we need to march and to take continuous action as women and citizens in this country.
Like many white liberals, I was completely shocked by the election of Donald Trump. Surely our country would never really elect a man who brags about sexually assaulting women, mocks the disabled and makes openly racist remarks. Surely the party of family values couldn't really support a serial adulterer whose defense against multiple allegations of sexual assault is that he couldn't possibly have assaulted those women because they aren't attractive enough. Surely accepting the support of neo-nazis is disqualifying.
Like many white liberals, I am learning that my country isn't what I thought it was. And I am learning that this comes as no surprise to people of color. And I am learning that I have a lot to learn. I am taking steps, mostly by reading because that is how I operate. So I am setting out to follow more women of color on Twitter, read more articles by diverse voices, and read as many books as life with a baby allows for. I am listening to the people whose experience differs from mine and I am examining the ways in which my privilege has insulated me from understanding how hostile America can be for people of color, the disabled, the LGBT community, immigrants, and Muslims.
One of the things I am learning is that I have a responsibility to use my privilege to benefit those who do not share it. In a nation where an unbelievable (to me) number of people actually believe that President Obama created a racial divide, I have a responsibility to use my white voice to speak up and call that a preposterous idea. Did the election of a black man to the presidency expose our racial divide? Oh, absolutely. When you're accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.
When you're accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.
We see this when Christians believe they are facing discrimination when their prayers aren't allowed in public schools that have never allowed prayers of other religions. That's equality, not oppression. And if you believe that the natural order of things is to have a white male president, then Barack Obama violated that natural order. And that threatens you and you begin to believe (if you hadn't already) that discrimination against straight, white, Christian males is a real problem in this country. Or maybe you just believe that racism is over and the only reason it's still a problem is because non-white people keep bringing it up. You don't feel discrimination against any marginalized group and therefore, you don't believe it exists.
I marched because it does. I marched because we elected a man who actively promoted fear and hate. I marched because our new President sees the worth of women as defined by their beauty and their beauty as a thing that he has a right to manhandle. I marched because I want a better country for my daughter, one that rejects those ideas and sees her as fully human. The chant that most stood out to me at the March was "Show me what a feminist looks like. / This is what a feminist looks like." Seeing a massive crowd of men, women, and children of different races and backgrounds say "This is what a feminist looks like." was powerful to me. The word feminist has been twisted into a negative by so many, but it means a person who believes women should have equal rights. Shouldn't that be obvious? But it isn't obvious and isn't something to be taken for granted. This administration has already taken steps to remove rights and protections from women both here and around the world.
I marched because a person's civil rights should not be subject to another person's religious beliefs. And yet, here we go again with attempting to deny marriage and all of the civil rights associated with it to same-sex couples. And codifying discrimination against transgender individuals. And taking away access to birth control and reproductive health care from women. And funneling tax money into schools that are free to discriminate against disabled students.
I marched because stirring up fear and hate toward immigrants and Muslims has real consequences for people's lives. And so does taking away health care coverage. And dangerously scattershot foreign policy conducted over Twitter. And denying the reality of climate change.
Like "Christy" the writer of the viral Facebook post about not needing the March, I have by and large not suffered for being a woman in this country. I can also say that I have my right to vote and can work if I choose and so on and so forth. Unlike Christy, I see that not everyone has my privileges and I care enough to march on their behalf.
As Amanda Summerlin said here, "privilege is when you think something isn’t a problem because it isn’t a problem to you personally. It’s also privilege when you just don’t even think about someone else’s reality because it isn’t part of your every day life."
I'm not in danger of losing my health insurance and we don't need CHIP coverage for Josephine, thanks to Raj's military service. Our right to be married and have equal standing as parents of our child are in no danger, nor is our legal right to adopt in the future if we so choose. I happened to be born here, so nobody will challenge my right to stay here and my multiple forms of government ID (and, let's be honest, my whiteness) mean that I'm likely safe from whatever voter restriction laws are most likely coming. But none of this, none of it, means that I do not have the responsibility to stand up against threats to my fellow human beings.
This isn't the eloquent, well-organized and moving post I wanted to write about this. This is what I can get done during nap times and in between checking reputable news sites to keep abreast of developments that make me sad and angry all over again. Gag orders against scientists, a ban on refugees from entering the country, closing of the investigation into Flint's unsafe water with still no safe water in Flint.
This may not be the country I thought it was but it's mine and it's yours and it needs us.